From New International, Vol. I No. 5, December 1934, pp. 152–153.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
TO THE Independent Labour Party, London
You have made the proposal to convene an international conference in order to establish a fighting united front on an international scale. The Communist party of France has consented in its October letter, under the condition that the so-called “Trotskyist” organizations should not be allowed in. This restriction is decidedly astonishing: on the one hand, the sections of the Comintern give assurances on every occasion that the organizations of the Bolshevik-Leninists (“Trotskyists”) are of “trifling size”. On the other hand, the most important section of the Comintern makes its participation in a world congress dependent upon the admittance or non-admittance of “extremely insignificant groupings”. Every conscious worker must say to himself: the “trifling size” of the Bolshevik-Leninists is not at all neglected by the Stalinist organizations. It is perhaps possible that their qualities may not be neglected.
The reason which the French section of the Comintern alleges for its attitude is that we Bolshevik-Leninists are “proved enemies” of the USSR. This reason can only provoke the greatest amazement The Comintern conducts negotiations with the leaders of the Second International, Vandervelde and Fritz Adler, and the French Stalinists pursue the united front with Jouhaux. Vandervelde has always been the opponent of the October revolution, the official attorney of the terrorists who had prepared the attentats upon Lenin and Trotsky. Jouhaux draws no fundamental distinction between the Soviet government and the capitalist governments. In practise, he is always ready to support his government against the workers’ state. All these facts in no way prevent the Stalinists – at least after their latest turn and till a new command – from realizing or aspiring towards the united front with these proved enemies of the Soviet dictatorship. As we see, the only argument brought forward by the Stalinists against sitting down at one table with the Bolshevik-Leninists, cannot be maintained. But it must be added, and this is the decisive point: far from being proved or unproved enemies of the Soviet state, we are and remain its most resolute defenders. Both our international organizations and our sections have always excluded from their ranks those elements who were unable to discern beneath the nationally limited and conservative Soviet bureaucracy the basis of a workers’ state which can and should support the international revolution and thus evolve triumphantly to the construction of the socialist society.
Our real crime – and the only one – consists in that we always make a distinction and we teach the workers to make a distinction between the bureaucracy – which, feeding on the defeats of the world proletariat, has become a monstrously baleful ulcer on the Soviet state – and the workers’ state itself.
The bureaucracy of the Comintern has not only constantly refused to permit of such a distinction, but it has never allowed a single one of its members in the last eleven years to express the slightest supposition, for even a moment, that the Soviet bureaucracy can ever make any kind of mistake. Our mistake is also that, although we always defend the USSR as a workers’ state, we will have no part of the Stalinist dogma of the infallibility of the Soviet bureaucracy, which has freed itself from the control of the masses in order to subject itself to an entirely personal regime. We do not intend to dwell upon the additionally undisputable fact that all that has been progressive in the activity of the Soviet bureaucracy (industrialization, collectivization, five-year plan), was only borrowed from the ideas and programs put forth by the Bolshevik-Leninists, even if it borrowed them belatedly and distorted them bureaucratically. Every conscious worker can verify this by comparing the documents and files, year by year and month by month.
But as it is a matter of the international conference, then it is above all important to underline the fact that the Comintern and its sections require the principle of the infallibility of the Soviet leaders only in order the better to assert their own infallibility. You know just as well as we that internal criticism no longer exists in the Stalinist organizations. The most unexpected turns are inaugurated without the slightest precedent discussion, often at telegraphic or telephonic command. The abandonment of the theory of the “third period” and social-Fascism, as well as the turn to the united front, are indisputably facts of progress. But every conscious worker can and should say to himself that tomorrow these reforms can just as unexpectedly be replaced by opposite reforms, since the bureaucracy, freed from control from below, listens only to the commands from above and lays claim to infallibility.
The Marxian method of the united front assumes that every party has the right to express its critical opinion about the conduct of its ally. This is, moreover, the only way to educate oneself in action and to guarantee the progress of the consciousness of the masses. The Stalinists have made the united front dependent upon neglecting mutual criticism, thus neglecting the most elementary teachings of Lenin and Marx. Furthermore, it is this means alone that they possess in order to preserve the myth of their infallibility and right here is where one must look for the explanation of their hatred and their fear of the “extremely insignificant” “Trotskyists”, whom they do not neglect at all.
For eleven years now we have followed the whole policy of the Comintern, step by step. Be it a question of the alleged “workers’ and peasants’” parties in the East, of the Chinese revolution and the subjugation of the proletariat to the bourgeois party of the Kuo Min Tang, of the Anglo-Russian Committee, of the behavior of the Polish Communist party which supported the coup d’état of Pilsudski in 1926, of the policy of the “third period” with its sinister adventurism, of the theory land practise of social-Fascism which ended with the German catastrophe, of the same policy in Austria and in Spain where it condemned the sections of the Comintern to impotence, finally of the present policy of the Communist party of France which resists the creation of the workers’ militia – in all these decisive questions and in many other important cases we always put forward the Marxian policy against the Stalinist policy and foretold the ruinous consequences of the latter. Let every conscious worker compare our proposals and our forecasts with the course of events and he will know on whose side lies the truth. It is especially this state of affairs that makes it unacceptable and impossible for the Stalinist sections to confront us before an international proletarian forum. Just as soon as crevices appear in the wall of infallibility, the whole bureaucratic apparatus will fall to pieces. That is why the Stalinists, as they are today, must at any cost avoid contact with an organization which knows from the bottom up their history, their mistakes and even their crimes.
But however much it is possible to understand their attitude from a psychological standpoint, it remains quite inadmissible politically. The meaning of the united front consists in that one does not demand of one’s allies that they acknowledge in advance ideas and evaluations which they do not share. If the “Trotskyists” are proved enemies of the USSR, then this fact will inevitably appear in the course of the joint action, and we will thus fall into discredit in the eyes of the proletarian vanguard. Were the Stalinists really to believe what they put forward, then they would congratulate themselves on the fact that we are to appear at their side at the international forum of the working class. But no, they are far from adopting this road, and they are right – not as a revolutionary organization but as a conservative bureaucracy: an open and free discussion would not leave a trace of the spell of their infallibility.
The international vanguard of the proletariat has the greatest interest in forming a clear opinion on this question, on which depends to a large degree the development of the world revolution. By the fact that the Comintern apparatus abuses the prestige of the Soviet state, which we are the first to recognize and support, and has at its service practically inexhaustible material means, it blocks the road to any revolutionary education, which can be begun only by means of free criticism and in an atmosphere of loyalty.
We would look in vain for such loyalty in the conduct of the Stalinists, even after their latest turn. Only yesterday they still asserted that the Socialist party of France is the twin brother of Fascism and that the ILP is Left social-Fascism. Today they denounce our French brothers who have joined the SFIO in order to work there loyally on the basis of their principles and their methods, as destroyers of the socialist party. “Fraternally” they warn Leon Blum and Paul Faure that our alleged manoeuvres threaten the unity of the SP and at the same time they denounce us in the official publications of the Comintern as lackeys of Leon Blum, and thereby also of Doumergue, and so forth.
We believe that also those organizations which are entirely hostile to the ideas of the Bolshevik-Leninists have the highest duty to reject the arrogance of the Stalinists which consists in putting the working class world before the revolver of ultimata and in poisoning the atmosphere of the united front by means of calumny and despicable intrigue, instead of purifying it by means of free criticism and loyal collaboration.
At all times, and especially now after the enormous defeats, the proletarian vanguard needs revolutionary clarity. We are far from the idea of disputing the right of the Stalinists, even the bureaucrats, to take part in the joint actions, but they must cease to regard themselves as an ex officio nobility looking down upon the proletarian plebs. And above all they must employ arguments and not insults. In the name of all our sections, whose number is increasing and whose influence is growing in almost every country in the world, we declare ourselves ready to confront the Stalinists and their charges before any national and international forum of the proletariat.
The International Secretariat,
Last updated on 26 February 2016